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Networking: The League of Extraordinary Youth Workers

Ministry is so, so busy. Your life likely is, too.

The last thing you need is another meeting, right?

So why in the world would you want to take part in a local youth ministry network?

heroes_originstory(Don’t worry – since you’re in ministry, you’re one of my heroes and I’m going to do my best to talk you out of networking…but then I’ll try to talk you into it, because you’re one of my heroes.)

  • Every great hero has an origin story worth telling. Yours tracks back to how you grew up, defining moments that shaped you, when you discovered God was calling your name and the moment you stepped over the line to become an active part of advancing His Kingdom.At some point you own that being Jesus-centered isn’t radical – it’s normal…the way things are meant to be.
  • Every great hero has a villain. The reason you “suited up” was because an injustice was happening around you and beyond you. Perhaps others didn’t have access to what they needed, or maybe you saw suffering that made you realize evil isn’t just a thing, but a “someone” out to steal, kill, and destroy any signs of Life.At some point you own how all of who you are must step up to all that is before you.
  • Every great hero has a moment of failure. Spiderman had an inadvertent hand in Uncle Ben’s death. Batman couldn’t save Robin from being beaten to death with a crowbar by the Joker. Superman couldn’t stop a nuclear missile and save Lois at the same time (sure, he flew around the world and reversed time, but let’s ignore that). You will let students, families, and your church down.At some point you own how even stepping up with all of who you will not be enough – that you will be sifted.

We can all relate to this from our seasons of life and ministry.

hero_intrainingI remember early on wanting to appear like I was worthy of the opportunity a church gave me so I faked my way through “how” to do ministry. Later on, I assumed I was a “veteran” and could do youth ministry in my sleep – so I didn’t ask for help but tried to make my mark… to get invited to speak at the next big event. Thankfully, I eventually became a “wide-eyed question-asker” as I sat among some peers and it hit me that they probably knew more about some aspects of ministry than I did.

That’s when I knew that networking mattered.

Sorry, I don’t mean to talk you into it just yet. Let me try to talk you out of it some more.

Connecting with other youth workers has been hard for me over the years. There are certain annoying personalities, like the guy who assumes his church’s values are more important than us partnering together – because, you know… “my way is right” – or at least I think it can be proof-texted more easily.

I’ve also struggled with being able to partner with other youth workers but having their church leaders raise an eyebrow at everything we do. Sometimes it’s the logistics of “Which church will those kids and families attend when the event you’ve worked on together is over,” and other times it’s about making sure every minor detail of theology lines up before we do anything.

There’s also the hurdle of “my kids” seeing how cooler “their kids” have it and will likely swap youth groups.

Seriously, who needs any of that?

I’m so glad that the Early Church in the First Century always got working together like this right.

actionbible2They never argued over anything logistical or theological. If they had, there’d have been letters written to churches and people to keep them on track while they did the larger work of God together. We’d have passages like “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

Apparently people having favorite leaders wasn’t an issue either. If there was, we might read, “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.”

So…how about we own our snark and pride?

  • Every great hero has a network. There’s a reason why the Avengers and the Justice League came together in the comics. There’s a reason why Jesus picked 12 disciples and not just one. In our line of work, the reasons are similar: a team of people can pool resources, collaborate on grander strategies and beat bigger bad guys.At some point you own that you’re not the only hero in town.
  • Every great hero has common ground with other heroes. When you start a network or join into one, prayer is the most important first step. Whether you’re gathering with volunteers who donate their last ounce of free time to students or full-time pastors who bear a full-time burden, find out what’s happening in their lives and let them know what’s happening in yours. Commit to pray with/for each other to lay down a foundation of trust that allows you to take action on God’s dreams for the teenagers in your community.At some point you own that God has called diverse people to the same ministry.
  • Every great hero has identity issues. You will at some point realize that who you are becoming is as important as what you are doing. Use your network to share what’s in your heart – the good, the bad and the ugly. I watched other ministers let their guard down when I opened up in a networking meeting by saying, “I’m jealous of your ministry… while I don’t view you as competition, I constantly feel people in our church comparing us to you. I would rather not do that and instead value you through prayer.” Invite others to share along these lines. Listen for God’s heart under all of your hearts.At some point you own the reality that ministry is to happen supernaturally and not merely naturally.
  • physical-3763Every great hero has training needs Pick something to read together. Something practical-yet-neutral like Youth Leader Training on the Go can keep one person from being the expert so your network members can collaborate on ministry. That way you can even push back against a thought through the local context that you all share without it being offensive to one person.At some point you own that there are great ideas to be discovered right down the street.

When all is said and done, you really can be a part of a “league of extraordinary youth workers.”

It simply has to start somewhere and with someone.

What are your thoughts on this? What’s been your experience?

One thought on “Networking: The League of Extraordinary Youth Workers

  1. I love this post so much!! Man, you read my mind.

    I’m a part of a budding network of youth workers in OKC. We working on figuring out how to do this well. Anybody know an example of a city or area that’s done this well? We’d love to learn from them.

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Networking: The League of Extraordina...

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